West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 14 | September 5 - 11, 2007

A special Villager supplement.
Back to School

Above, Elisabeth Irwin and a Little Red School House student, circa 1933. Below, every summer, Little Red students traveled by ferry to the countryside for June Camp, a monthlong outdoor learning experience.

LREI celebrates 75 years of progressive education

The 2007 school year marks the 75th anniversary of the Little Red School House’s being located at Bleecker St. and Sixth Ave. On Mon., Sept. 10, LREI will commemorate the occasion with a morning of special events. Current lower and middle school students will be joined by alumni, some of whom attended the school when Elisabeth Irwin, founder of the Little Red School House, welcomed the first students into the building. The community is invited to join in celebrating the historic occasion.

LREI (The Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School) is an independent, nonprofit, progressive school with an enrollment of 565 students.

The Little Red School House was founded in 1921 by noted educator-reformer Elisabeth Irwin. Guided by progressive educational principles, Irwin envisioned a public/private schooling experiment for elementary-aged children that could be applied successfully in the crowded, ethnically diverse public schools of the nation’s largest city. 

While always a West Village fixture, the original location of the school was at P.S. 41, then on Greenwich Ave. between 10th and 11th Sts. In 1932, Irwin’s program was defunded by the Board of Education, but its ardent supporters, including Professor John Dewey, the prominent philosopher and educator, resisted the conservative criticism and rallied to fund the school as a private institution that would stay in touch with its original spirit and mission.

In September 1932, Irwin and the 138 students of the Little Red School House moved to the Bethlehem Chapel at 196 Bleecker St., where the 4-year-olds to fourth graders still thrive today.

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